What Makes a Great People Manager? Introduction

What makes a great manager? Put simply: a lot. Like parents, there's a lot expected of us as people managers. It can be exhausting, frustrating, thankless, lonely and like parenting, one of the best, most rewarding experiences of our lives. Also like being a parent, there are common things that make great people managers great.

I've been fascinated by the topics of leadership, management and teamwork for as long as I can remember. I've practiced these things for years in a variety of settings, studied it in a masters degree program from a great school, and have done a lot of individual research and there's a lot of great stuff out there and some not and I believe still more to come.

A couple of years ago I wanted to develop a leadership and management development academy for a small organization I was responsible for. Reason being was that we had a deficit of prepared leaders to take on existing or soon to be open management positions which didn't include the exponential and rapid growth we were planning on going through. We had a serious leadership crisis.

So I reflected back on all my work, studies, hundreds of books, tools and materials on management and leadership to help have a comprehensive yet simple guide and approach to develop all the right skills of the leaders we wanted and needed. But I couldn't find the exact thing I needed. So I went back into research mode. That's when I found what I thought was the best, most accurate, thorough, comprehensive and simple description and resource that summarized the qualities of a great manager. I found Google's "Project Oxygen".

What's Your Ideal Boss?

I would like you to try something. Think to yourself of the best manager you've ever work for.

Now think of the qualities that made them great. Go ahead and list them in your head or on paper if you'd like.

Next think of the worst boss you've ever worked for (statistically, nearly all of us have worked for someone that we didn't enjoy reporting to for at least some if not all of our professional lives).

Now what made them not fun to work for?

Have your two lists?

Project Oxygen

I've mentioned before in other posts about Google's work within their own company to find what makes the best managers the best. They called it Project Oxygen.

Click this picture to head to Google's re:work site to learn more

When they eliminated mangers, they learned very quickly how valuable they really are.

Then they intensively studied why and what made the best the best and this list is what they came up with.

This list resonated with me because it was short and simple but also covers what I believe to be nearly everything a manager needs to know and do to be successful.

How does Google's list stack up to the two lists you came up with? Pretty close? That's at least what I've found doing this dozens of times, no matter the group, restaurant managers, new shift supervisors, US Air Force pilots and officers. The result is always the same.

You see, we all want a lot of the same things from our leaders. Someone who is invested in and cares about us and inspires and motivates us.

8 Part Developmental Series on the Google 8

What I would like to do is unpack this model and share what I've learned and believe about each of the elements of this list and would love to hear what you think. So this will be an 8 part series (9 if you include the introduction), and hopefully we will grow together as people managers to become the best people leaders we can be.

Thanks so much for reading and here's to our growth for the sake of our people, organizations and families.


Lazlo Bock's Work Rules!

Devin Craig



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